Avery Solar began in 2010 as a partnership between developer O2 energies and Henderson Farms, a Christmas Tree Grower. The solar farm puts low lying land to productive use since the soil and early frost created by the stream makes it difficult to grow trees. Today the 1 megawatt solar farm sits on six acres below the Christmas tree farm. Each year, the solar farm generates 1,161 megawatt-hours of clean electricity during times of peak demand. This is the equivalent of powering the energy needs of more than 100 homes on an annual basis. Sheep are used to graze under the panels during the summer months to maintain the site, demonstrating a dual use for the land.

This multi-million dollar investment created work for more than 80 individuals and over 20 local and in-state companies, setting the stage for a new era for renewable energy in North Carolina. We want to thank the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Mountain Electric Cooperative (MEC), Luke and Susie Henderson of Henderson Farms, Strata Solar, Tommy Burleson, the town of Newland, High County Workforce Development Board, Mayland Community College and the dedicated individuals who helped to make this project a success.

O2 Energies has strived to maximize the use of US-manufactured equipment and local contractors in the Avery Solar project.

Solar module manufacturer REC will supply almost 4000 Peak Energy 235W modules for the fixed tilt Avery Solar system. "One of the reasons we selected REC modules is that their Peak Energy modules are made exclusively with REC Silicon, which is made in the US, supporting over 800 US jobs" said O2 Energies managing director Olee Joel Olsen. Marius Kroksjo, REC's Director for US and Emerging Markets remarked, "We are proud to partner with O2 Energies on the Avery Solar Project. This project represents a serious and meaningful step forward in the deployment of solar generation in the U.S. Southeast market"

SMA Solar Technology AG, the world's largest manufacturer of solar inverters, was selected to supply two Sunny Central 500HE-US (500 kW) inverters assembled at its Denver factory. "We are happy to partner with O2 Energies to provide US produced inverters to the Avery Solar project" said Dave Wojciechowski, senior sales director for SMA America. "This project shows how leading technology can be domestically sourced, creating high-performance systems while supporting American jobs."

In an effort to recruit local contractors and laborers to work on the project, EPC contractor Strata Solar partnered with the High County Work Force Development Board and the Youth Chamber of Commerce to hold a job fair in Newland. "We are excited to provide work opportunities for skilled laborers in the community," said John Morrison, chief operating officer at Strata. "Strata and O2 share a common goal to create local economic development."

O2 structured financing for the solar farm from a combination of owner equity, tax equity investment, and construction and permanent debt financing. Lake Norman-based Aquesta Bank provided construction and permanent debt financing, making it one of the first banks in North Carolina to finance a solar deal.

"We understand this market," said Jim Engel, president of Aquesta Bank. "We see solar as a secure, attractive investment and we look forward to more opportunities." The partnership between O2 Energies and Aquesta is one of the first examples of successful solar project financing between a North Carolina developer and a North Carolina bank.

The Avery Solar farm was commissioned in September of 2011.